I mentioned in part 1 of this article that most of us hold the belief that a fast decision is better than a slow one and dramatically better than no decision.
There are decisions that deserve plenty of debate, analysis and consultation but the vast majority are not worth that much input and effort. Very few can't be undone and nearly all can be adjusted as circumstances dictate or require.
The trend I see in organisations is cause for concern. People are doing it tough cleaning up otherwise avoidable messes they created by making poor initial decisions. Furthermore, that creates an environment of hesitation and trepidation about being the decision-maker in the first place.
If an organisation is not prepared to accept a level of failure and it’s employees operate in a culture of fear then organisations grind to a mind-numbingly slow pace.
Of course that’s not full licence for employees to be totally reckless with their decision-making. There is still accountability required. But instilling a culture of fear and retribution does nothing to enhance creative thinking that oftentimes will require some degree of risk taking. Getting the balance right is something each organisation needs to examine, then set the framework around which employees know and understand.
Bear in mind that speed doesn’t necessarily mean that one leader makes all the decisions from the top-down. The art (or science) of good decision-making is in seeking input and perspective from your team or trusted advisors, and then reach a decision in a way that ensured all opinions were heard.
Many of us may not realise that our first thoughts are usually not even our thoughts. They usually belong to someone else. Peter F. Drucker said in his book the Effective Executive of making effective decisions, that all decisions should start with the facts yet rarely are the facts presented actually facts, instead they are merely opinions.
This is a trap for the inexperienced. To accept what one is told without question or assessing the situation yourself exposes you to falling prey to other people’s assumptions and opinions.
We haven’t done the hard work of real thinking. Quite often we cease our analysis when the first workable solution comes to us. We ‘satisfice.’ That is we sacrifice a perfect or better solution that may come in the future after further consideration, for a satisfactory solution now. And you know what? Quite often that is good enough.
We don’t want consensus to hold us hostage but seeking input from others helps us get to a good decision quickly, and with the added bonus of buy-in from those involved. That is, provided the team meeting is handled well. Which brings us back to where we started - meetings that don’t reach a conclusion and don’t meter out tasks.
Running an effective meeting is a skill and there's an art to knowing when to cease discussions and make a decision. Especially if the meeting seems evenly divided between to viable alternatives.
There’s a scene in the movie Air Force One where Harrison Ford stars as the US President is receiving advice from his military chief of staffs and the debate concludes with half his advisors advocating military action and half are not. The President listens carefully to everyone’s rationale and then decides. Done! Decision.
I know that’s only a movie but many leaders are reluctant to make the big call when there's sensible debate and good reason on both sides. In my experience I’ve found that people are quite often relieved when the leader steps up to the plate and accepts responsibility for a decision.
Perhaps something that’s not always going to be necessary but having a leader that is prepared to make the call if and when necessary provides the organisation’s employees a level of confidence and perhaps even comfort.
Speaking of comfort, that’s a good barometer for whether you are moving fast enough.
If you sense a low-level of discomfort then there’s a good chance your team is stretched. Not resting comfortably on their laurels but not stressed to the max either. That’s the sweet-spot where agility and longevity for the organisation will grow.